I’m not a big supporter of First Nations causes. Not politically correct, I know, but that’s never stopped me before. I’m tired of being told to walk around wearing sackcloth and ashes over things that happened hundreds of years before I was born. As you can probably guess from the language I’m not on board with the idea that I’m somehow not a native of the country I was born in. Anyone born on this soil is a “native American”, something illegal immigrant advocates will be happy to explain to you whilst claiming that children born to illegal immigrants deserve citizenship. (Just for the record, I agree that they do.) On the other hand the relatively few people I’ve met with actual tribal ancestry were all pretty cool about the subject, so I suspect that much of what I object to actually comes from palefaced latte liberals. That’s neither here nor there, though.
Just because I don’t want to give away the country doesn’t mean that I completely reject First Nations causes. People who can demonstrate First Nations ancestry are entitled to the same rights as any other American. They are entitled to freedom from prejudice and discrimination, because all people are entitled to freedom from prejudice and discrimination. They are entitled to enforcement of any extant treaties or agreements with their tribe still regarded as legally valid in court. When lands are deemed to be owned by First Nations tribes under such agreements the tribe is entitled to the administration of those lands, though the Supreme Court in its infinitesimal (sic) wisdom may change that. Most importantly they have the right to be recognized for who and what they are, upon presentation of the evidence necessary to support such a claim. Such recognition is more than just a point of pride or respect. Without recognition, First Nations members can’t (e.g.) file for scholarships that have been provided for First Nations. First Nations artisans, practicing their tribes’ crafts, can’t legally sell their wares as being of authentic tribal origin without recognition, greatly impairing their ability to make a living with their skills. Recognition is vital.
For around thirty years, the Lenape tribes of New Jersey have been recognized by the state. Recently, though, as part of the Christie administration’s litany of sins, that recognition was withdrawn. The video linked below is the first in a series of four I took at a recent presentation at Montclair State University. I apologize for the numerous flaws in them (shaky camera, chop edits, etc.); I don’t do this often enough to have acquired any real skill at it. The speakers in these videos go into detail about the tribes’ history with the state, their struggle for recognition and its recent loss. Cutting to the chase, the Christie administration, probably at the behest of Atlantic City casino owners, revoked recognition out of the fear that the Lenape would open casinos. This despite the fact that the Lenape are, in the words of one of the speakers, “non-gaming tribes”. The tribes’ laws do not permit profit from any form of vice. They don’t even allow the sale of cigarettes or alcoholic beverages on their lands. This had led to the tribes’ filing suit against the state to regain their recognition. The state’s response to this suit, described in the third video in the series, seems to me to be weak in the extreme. Most tellingly the state’s response does not even try to claim that the Lenape tribes are not legitimate, i.e. they do not even try to refute the historical evidence supporting the tribes’ claims of identity. This, to me, says that the evidence must be beyond reproach and given that, recognition should be mandatory.
Please, enjoy the videos and hear the representatives of the tribes and their lead attorney make their case. The video should automatically advance to the next one in the series, but you may want to follow the link to YouTube and watch there for best results.